The good news…..most Americans are now more willing to talk about mental health issues than in years past. The bad news….stigmas and misperceptions remain. That, according to a recent survey by Kaiser Permanente.
The survey, of more than 3,000 U.S. adults, found that 70 percent said they feel people are more open to discussing mental health compared with a decade ago.
Most respondents also said they’d want to help a family member or friend struggling with depression or other mental health conditions.
On the other hand, age-old misperceptions were still common. Many people, for example, thought that mental health disorders were at least partially driven by “personal failings.”
U.S. News & World Report quoted Dr. Don Mordecai, director of mental health and addiction medicine services at Kaiser Permanente, as saying he was disappointed that lingering stigmas remain. “These are true brain conditions,” Mordecai said, “and we have to get away from the blaming.”
Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, a psychiatrist who was not involved in the survey, agreed (with Dr. Don Mordecai).
“Psychiatric conditions are not moral weaknesses or character flaws,” said Borenstein, president of the New York City-based Brain & Behavior Research Foundation.
Borenstein said he was surprised by how many survey respondents mistakenly believed that character was involved. Over 60 percent thought that personal weaknesses were at least partly responsible for depression, for example.
“We clearly have a long way to go in educating the public,” Borenstein said. “These conditions are equal to any other medical condition.
BusinessInsider.com featured a new website Kaiser has developed titled “Find Your Words.” The site offers a “host of resources for those affected by mental health conditions, including how to start a conversation, recognizing symptoms of depression, a self-assessment tool and information on how to get help. Digital spots are aimed at increasing awareness of what to do when a friend or family member may be suffering.”
And Health.com pointed out that the poll uncovered some inconsistencies. 3-of-4 people who took the poll believed they were somewhat informed about mental health conditions. A similar percentage said the disorders should be treated no differently from physical health problems.
Yet they also thought personal character was a factor in many mental health conditions. Fully 80 percent thought that was true of people with alcohol or drug addiction.
And a significant number thought “most people” with mental health disorders can get better on their own. That included one-quarter of millennials, (Kaiser’s Dr. Don) Mordecai pointed out — which is concerning.
“You wouldn’t walk around with a broken leg, thinking, ‘I’ll just heal this myself,’” he said.
We’d love to hear what you think about this poll and whether you believe we are making progress when it comes to mental health…..particularly addressing stigmas and misperceptions. Driving meaningful dialogue around the health stories making headlines is another way we are working toward our long-term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!